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Slaves, Revolutions, Embargoes, and Needles: The Political Economy of Acupuncture in Cuba

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AbstractMedical systems have travelled and influenced one another for as long as there has been trade between differing groups. The medical systems of China have been a particularly frequent traveller, facilitated by Chinese migration and trade throughout history. The transfer and subsequent integration of acupuncture into the Cuban health care system can be best understood in terms of various political and economic forces from the mid-nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century. This paper will demonstrate that how acupuncture was transferred to Cuba; why it was integrated into the national health care system of Cuba; and how acupuncture is currently understood and practised in the Cuban context can be best understood as a result of specific political and economic factors.


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